WAILUKU - The remarkable run for the Lahainaluna High School football team has reached this: The Lunas' impenetrable defense is almost playing offense.
The Lunas completed a shutout run through the first round of the Maui Interscholastic League schedule with a 41-0 win over Maui High in front of about 3,000 fans Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.
The Lunas have not allowed a point since a meaningless touchdown in the third quarter of a 35-14 win over Keaau on the Big Island on Aug. 17.
Lahainaluna High School’s Semisi Filikitonga recovers a fumble by Maui High’s David Kahaleauki as Brandon Kaina closes in during the second quarter of the Lunas’ 41-0 victory over the Sabers on Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.
BEN JUAN photo
"You study, you work hard and good things happen," Lahainaluna co-head coach Garret Tihada said in a steady rain after Saturday's game.
One play near the end of the first half epitomized how much confidence the Lunas exude on defense.
Semisi Filikitonga, a 5-foot-5, 140-pound senior, lined up on the defensive line, swirled around his blocker and met quarterback Charles Kahaleauki and running back Justin McCrary at the mesh point.
|Baldwin 48, King Kekaulike 27|
|Lahainaluna 41, Maui High 0|
|End of first round|
|Friday, Sept. 28|
|Lahainaluna at King Kekaulike, 7 p.m.|
|Saturday, Sept. 29|
|Maui High at Kamehameha Maui, 7 p.m.|
|LAHAINALUNA 41, MAUI HIGH 0|
|LL—Kiko Kohler-Fonohema 2 run (Reece Sinenci kick), 4:27.|
|LL—Semisi Filikitonga 5 run (run failed), 10:24.|
|LL—Tytus Lucas 4 pass from Kohler-Fonohema (John Lacuesta pass from Kohler-Fonohema), 3:40.|
|LL—Mark Alamon 58 pass from Kohler-Fonohema (Christian Cardenas-Ayala kick), 1:29.|
|LL—Filikitonga 3 run (Cardenas-Ayala kick), 0:26.|
|LL—Filikitonga 40 interception return (pass failed), 8:08.|
|Junior varsity—Lahainaluna 16, Maui High 0.|
Before the handoff could be completed as the Sabers tried to run out the clock, Filikitonga knocked the ball out, and recovered it 20 yards downfield at the Maui High 6-yard line. He scored on a 3-yard rush two plays later.
The Lunas (5-0 overall), who clinched the league's Division II first-round crown last week, have out-scored the MIL 138-0 - they won 29-0 over King Kekaulike, 36-0 over Kamehameha Maui and 32-0 over Baldwin.
While others struggled to remember a streak of four straight shutouts in MIL play, Tihada smiled and said, "I'm sure Baldwin has done it a few times."
He added: "It all goes back to hard work. That's all we preach."
When asked if this is the best defense he has seen at Lahainaluna, Tihada was quick with a smile again. He remembered the 1997 unit led by Jansen Medeiros that won MIL and Neighbor Island Football Championship titles.
"Yeah, '97 by far was the best, by far," he said. "They were scary."
Could this unit be the best since then?
"If these guys keep this up then, yeah," Tihada said. "The kids keep things in perspective, we have good leadership this year. They are constantly on the rest of the team to stay focused. I'm hoping it is not going to be a problem, but so far it hasn't been."
The Sabers dropped to 2-2 (2-3 overall).
"Lahaina is tough, very fundamentally sound, offensively, defensively, they are a tough, tough team," said Maui High coach David Bui. "Our focus is just to improve every day and this loss here is tough, but it starts with me. I just need
to do a better job of coaching our kids."
The Lunas started their scoring when Kiko Kohler-Fonohema capped an eight-play, 67-yard drive with a 2-yard run with 4 minutes, 27 seconds left in the first quarter.
A bad snap on punt formation ended up in a 30-yard loss for Maui High early in the second quarter and Filikitonga scored from 5 yards out on the next play to make it 13-0 with 10:24 left in the half.
Another bad snap forced a 14-yard punt that gave the Lunas the ball on the Sabers' 36. A touchdown pass to Filikitonga on the next play was wiped out by a penalty, but Tytus Lucas caught a 4-yard scoring pass six plays later, with 3:40 left in the half.
Mark Alamon broke free for a pretty 58-yard scoring throw from Kohler-Fonohema with 1:29 left in the half.
In the second half, with the mercy-rule running clock, Filikitonga accounted for the final score with his third touchdown - a 40-yard interception return with 8:08 left in the third quarter. He thwarted the next Maui High possession when he forced and recovered another fumble in the backfield.
Kohler-Fonohema completed seven of nine passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns.
"He is getting more comfortable back there, we had a lot of open receivers, the line gave him decent protection and he did a decent job throwing the ball," Tihada said.
Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org